Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015, Michael Torch


Welcome to September! Or as the NYT reminded me today, the 76th anniversary of the start of World War II.


So, I promised a theme this month, and here it is. I'm calling it Alpha and Omega: I'll be spending a little time each day discussing the relative merits of the first across and last down clue-answer pairs. The former is actually important in my eyes: it can put a certain cast over the whole puzzle, positive or negative. The latter is only there so my theme can make sense.

But first, we have a truly odd bird of a puzzle today. I had no sense of the theme until I was all done, and realized it was a vowel progression of sorts, namely S_NE, where each successive theme clue puts in the long vowel in order from A to U. Only, here, see, the specific vowel is not in the answer, although the sound is. Well, sometimes it's not there, and sometimes it's the correct sound.

Par exemple, 17A: Locale of the Île de la Cité (RIVERSEINE) does not have the A in the answer. On the other hand, I'd deny that the vowel sound is in fact a long A. It's more of a short E. But them 25A: Highway investigation site (CRASHSCENE) has the E in the answer, but it's definitely a long E. Anyway, maybe I'm being too harsh on the idea of having the vowel present, but I am unhappy about the first answer. Also, CUTANDSEWN is just some words thrown together (although it actually Googles all right).

Definitely a tough puzzle for a Tuesday. There are more than a few proper names like REINA, IAN, ENID, FALA, ATTICA and EAMES that are on the tricky side. I do like me an Eames chair, though. There are also really tricky clues like 11D: Hot to trot, e.g. (RHYME) and 10A: Music and dance, for two (ARTS). On that last one, I was stuck on "duet" or some variant thereof.

I love EGREGIOUS, SOVIETERA, and it's a nice bit of trivia and a sly dig on ENGLAND. And I guess I might be a NERD for the times I get 100% on Sporcle quizzes.

So, the theme. 1A: Buddy of "The Beverly Hillbillies" (EBSEN), referring to the actor who played Jed Clampett on the immortal series I have never in my life ever watched. So, did I get it? Yes, it was my last answer, crossing the S of SOVIETERA. It's common enough that I should have gotten it sooner, but frankly, I don't want a proper name as my first entry into the puzzle. I give this one a C.

The other half is 55D: Title word before "You," "U" or "Yesterday" in hit songs (ONLY). I got this answer primarily through the crosses. It's a reasonable clue, and better than an outright partial. I'll give it a B+.

- Colum


  1. First of all, I like your theme idea. 1A is, indeed, an important piece of any puzzle and can, as you say, set a tone. The final down (or across, I would argue) is certainly less important, but it does seem that there are times when a constructor is intentional in either fill or clue in that space. I look forward to a month of investigation, and I completely agree with today's assessment on 1A, but I might give 55D a B- instead of a B+. It's slightly interesting because of the "three song" reference, but it's not THAT interesting.

    I also completely agree on the actual theme today. I have a soft spot for a vowel progression, and I love what Mr. Torch is trying to do here. And maybe it will work with Americans who have no French, as it were, but for any francophile, 17A will be problematic. And really, the francophiles might think it's a rhyming theme if they also pronounce "scene" as the French would.

    No time today because the Web connection was being fickle, and the site recorded a time of 1:50, which is definitely not what it took me.

  2. Also, I wanted to say that I knew ENGLAND from the PBS show Endeavor. It was a sub-plot in one of the episodes and when I realized that England had won, I looked up the year, and since 1966 is something of an important year for me, I remembered it.

  3. 9:19
    Buddy EBSEN gets an A from me, but I agree on 17A, and I'm definitely no francophile. 14A Witchy sort (CRONE) is great. I starred 15A Foam on a beer (HEAD) because: 1) I enjoyed it as written, and 2) it could have been written in a much more risque fashion. 50A Show age, in a way (SAG) hits home, and it was nice to see the full MAITAI at 43D. I wanted something to do with a source of a poison for 44A Castor bean, for one (OILSEED), but it didn't slow me down too much. I thought this was a normal Tuesday until I saw Colum's time, which I expected to be around 5:00.